My journey on the Camino de Santiago started in September 2017. At the time I wrote Blog entries with pictures whenever I could. Now, almost a year later, I am re-posting the entries with a few updates. Enjoy.
Over the Pyrenees
Pace yourself. It is good advice whether you are walking the first leg of the Camino de Santiago or even in life itself. The day started not as early as I would have liked; I had to wait for the scrumptious French Breakfast that started around 7:30 am. After a good breakfast and even better French Coffee, I was on the road by 8 am ready and eager for the 25 km that waited to be conquered. Going over the Pyrenees involve, surprise-surprise, an elevation gain of about 1390 meters. So, with this elevation gain 25 km becomes roughly 32 km if everything was on level ground.
The lady from Vermont and the guy “paying for his sins”
On the first part I met a lady from Vermont who was recently retired. She was walking with two other people, relatives of hers. It was nice talking with her and I would meet her party a few times while walking the Camino. The scenery was very nice with the sun breaking through the clouds, cornfields, and sometimes muddy paths. I also met a lady from Taiwan who encouraged me to use the hiking poles I brought with me. Up to this point they took a free ride on the backpack. I was glad I listened to her, because I started using the hiking poles and they never left my side whether uphill or downhill or level ground. The most interesting person I met on that first part of the journey was a gentleman from the States, out of breath he said, “I am paying for my sins.” I was laughing inside because I was enjoying God’s creation.
On to the border
Just as I thought it might be time to find a bathroom the stop at Orisson appeared. From here the reward is more spectacular views of the Pyrenees landscape and a multitude of French Ponies and Manech sheep as well as the occasional Griffon vulture. A few kilometers after Orisson I came across Vierge d’Orisson – Virgin of Orisson. Shepherds brought this statue from Lourdes and the Virgin of Orisson has kept vigil here ever since.
What do you image when you think about a border crossing? Perhaps you think “Custom Agents.” Well, this border crossing on teh Camino between France and Spain was a Texas Gate! Yes, a Texas Gate. Though just before it is the Fontaine de Roland. From here it is 4 km to the highest point Col de Leopoeder at 1450 m (the hike started at St. Jean at 60 m above sea level, that is about a 1390 m elevation gain over 21 km).
The descent and a sore knee
This brings us the last 4 km of the hike. Now, as much as a like not admit it, my left knee was screaming at me by now and my left knee was my good knee. I taped it in the morning just in case; however, hairy knees and KT Tape do not like each other (he he, I guess I have to shave my knees). Luckily I brought two knee braces with me and quickly, after 19 km of uphill, remedied the crying knee (a remedy a little too late as I would learn on the next stage). Now it is downhill, quite steep too as I descend 500 m in 4 km. However, it is through Beech woods, Bosque de Irati, where I found quite a few Crocus Nodifloras.
Valley of Thorns – Roncescalles
And the first stage of the Camino de Santiago is done, I have arrived at the Valley of Thrones – Roncesvalles.
My resting place for the night was build in the 1750’s. In Roncesvalles we find Capilla de Sancti Spiritus, where it is said that the rear guard of Charlemagne’s Army was buried; and just beside it is the Capitola de Santiago both dating back to the 12th Century. The main church is Iglesias Santa Maria, also dating back to the 12 Century.
The first leg of the Camino over the Pyrenees is said to be a “baptism by fire.” I think it was more than that. The Pyrenees was perhaps the most enjoyable part of the journey for me. Yes, it was challenging going uphill most of the day. At the end awaits the Valley of Thorns. Don’t we find roses, or at least a rose, among the thorns?